Singer Jim Valley calls Gig Harbor his home

Jim Valley sits amongst his zinnias in his Gig Harbor garden.  Photo by Joan Cronk
Jim Valley sits amongst his zinnias in his Gig Harbor garden. Photo by Joan Cronk

Jim Valley has taught kids all over the world, but he calls Gig Harbor his home.  Born in Tacoma and raised in Seattle, Valley has a life-long love affair with the arts, music, kids and gardens.  And Jim Valley has always loved rock and roll.

He learned to play the piano by ear in the 9th grade and then taught himself to play the guitar.  One friend got a set of drums for Christmas, another buddy played the sax and another had a guitar but didn’t know how to play it. “He just sort of beat on it,” said Valley.

Valley wrote his first song “Cassandra” while in junior high school.  One night the group, called Vince Valley and his Chain Gang, was playing a gig at a junior high sock hop and, as Valley tells the story, “I’m playing the piano, this guy is up there with his acoustic guitar beating on it and the drummer and sax player were playing and I realized we were lacking something in our band; it was an electric guitar –so I bought one.”

He says now he regrets not taking advantage of the month of free lessons that came with the guitar due to his bias against country music at the time, telling the shop owner, “I’m going to learn how to play like Elvis.”

Valley bought a guitar book, taught himself how to play and the rest, as they say, is history.

Soon he moved from his spot as the piano player to playing guitar.

The band, which was by then called The Viceroys, earned $60 for their first dance. They became popular in Seattle and played a number of venues over the next four years.

In 1963, having recorded an instrumental called “Granny’s Pad,” they hit pay dirt when it became a huge Northwest hit. The Viceroys became a popular band in the Northwest, along with the Wailers, the Frantics and Little Bill and the Bluenotes.

Later Valley joined Paul Revere and the Raiders and they packed the house wherever they performed. They appeared on the Smother Brothers TV show and at age 23, Valley found he was a teen idol.

Later he began his teaching career, traveling internationally and helping kids learn more about friendships through poetry and song writing

Valley still helps kids discover their imagination, using themes focused on friendship, the environment and self-esteem. In 1983 he recorded his first children’s album “Rainbow Planet” and received the Parent’s Choice award.

Valley has settled down a bit from his rock and roll days, but he still loves music. He also loves gardens.  His home, on the water in Gig Harbor, demonstrates his love of flowers and outdoor spaces.  The gardens are extensive and beautiful with huge zinnias, larkspur, cardoon and perennial lobelia, roses and tons of trees and fragrant mock orange.

Originally built in 1898, the house was once a grocery store, with folks coming by boat to stock up on supplies.  Valley has remodeled the house, but parts of the old store and all of its rich history still live and breathe beneath new walls and roof.

The interior of Valley’s home reflects his love of music with a wall of guitars and masks from all over the world.

In June, Valley’s home was one of the stops on the Gig Harbor Garden Tour. Nine hundred visitors wandered through Valley’s lush gardens and were thrilled with all the little nooks and crannies in his garden area, with spots to sit and rest a while.

Outside Valley’s back door sits a statute of Saraswati, the goddess of music and wisdom watching over it all, blessing and guarding the beautiful home and gardens.